Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) condemned the arrest of journalists by police in Ferguson, Missouri, where tensions have been running high following the shooting of the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.
"Reporters should never be detained — a free press is too important — simply for doing their jobs," The Hill quoted Cruz as saying.
"Civil liberties must be protected, but violence is not the answer. Once the unrest is brought to an end, we should examine carefully what happened to ensure that justice is served.”
Cruz, a freshman in Congress, may run for president in 2016.
The two journalists who were detained, Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post, said police arrested them Wednesday for not clearing out quickly enough from a McDonald's where they were working, near the protests but not close to the more volatile areas.
The two, who work for , were released without any charges. Both say they were assaulted but not seriously hurt.
Among those arrested was St. Louis Alderman Antonio French, who has been chronicling the protests on social media.
"I think the heavy-handed approach by police is escalating the situation and more people are going to get hurt if this keeps up," French told KMOX Radio.
The White House said President Barack Obama — who is on vacation on the Massachusetts island of Martha's Vineyard — was briefed late Wednesday on the situation in Ferguson by Attorney General Eric Holder and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Obama also condemned the arrests of the reporters during a Thursday press conference.
Meanwhile, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press expressed outrage over the arrest the journalists.
“The unwarranted arrest of reporters from the Washington Post and Huffington Post in Ferguson, Mo., last night is outrageous and unacceptable in a nation that cherishes a free press,” said Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Bruce D. Brown in a statement on the group’s website.
“The right to record and report on police activities is a First Amendment right – and one essential to the journalist’s role as a watchdog and guardian of public accountability for law enforcement and other public officials,” Brown said. “That it should be so disregarded, particularly after the journalists identified themselves as members of the press, is almost unthinkable – yet it happened, and happened quite violently according to news reports.”
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar was said to have expressed shock over the journalists’ arrest when news organizations called him about it.
Even so, Belmar said that in general his officers have responded with "an incredible amount of restraint" as they've had rocks and bottles thrown at them, been shot at and had two dozen patrol vehicles destroyed.
Police had asked people to assemble in "an organized and respectful" manner and disperse before evening.
The city and county are also under criticism for refusing to release the name of the officer who shot Brown, citing threats against that officer and others.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.